THE DAY REPLAYED – Another enthralling day’s action on the sands of Espinho completed the quarter-final line-up at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Portugal 2015 – all eight qualified nations now knowing the fate that awaits them in the next round. FIFA.com brings you all the thrills and spills on a day that featured a shock to the system for the reigning world champions.
With Iran beating Mexico earlier in the day in Group C, their section rivals Brazil and Spain clashed in the day’s final game in a decisive encounter which, hardly surprisingly, was a cautious affair. Come the final whistle it was A Seleção who were all smiles following a 2-1 success which guaranteed them top spot and sent the Tahiti 2013 runners-up to the exit door. La Roja’s defeat thus ensured Team Melli qualified for the knockout stages, for the second finals in a row.
Group D’s two last-eight representatives were already decided before the final round of games, though qualified duo Russia – winners at the last two Beach Soccer World Cups – and Tahiti were both keen to seize first place in the section. And in a game of outstanding technical excellence, it was the OFC underdogs who edged it 7-6, in the process drawing a line under the Russians’ 14-game unbeaten run at the competition.
Paraguay and Madagascar, for their part, were battling not to finish bottom of Group D. The dubious honour of taking home the wooden spoon eventually went to the Madagascans, the only debutants at this competition, who went down 4-2 to La Albirroja.
As a result of today’s games, Thursday’s quarter-final line-up will kick off with a white-hot duel between the two most successful teams in Beach Soccer World Cup history: Russia and Brazil. The victors of that tantalising tie will meet the winners of Portugal-Switzerland in the semi-finals, with the other half of the draw featuring Italy-Japan and Tahiti-Iran.
Mexico 2-3 Iran
Brazil 2-1 Spain
Russia 6-7 Tahiti
Paraguay 4-2 Madagascar
Moran signs off in style
Paraguay bid farewell to Portugal 2015 with a win over Madagascar and, for sharpshooter Pedro Moran, the disappointment of an early exit will be tempered by the fact he is currently the competition’s eight-goal top scorer – two ahead of closest chaser Noel Ott of Switzerland. “I’m really happy to be the leading scorer, but what really mattered was getting the win today. It’s just a shame we didn’t qualify, so I’d get the chance to score even more,” said Moran.
First four-goal haul goes to Tahiti
Today’s triumph over Italy 2011 and Tahiti 2013 winners Russia will live long in the memory of everyone involved with Tahitian beach soccer, and for one man in particular: Li Fung Kuee. He was, without a doubt, the star of the show, helping himself to four of his side's seven goals – the first four-goal haul at Portugal 2015 so far. “Of course I’m really happy with the goals, but the credit must go to the whole team,” said Kuee, winner of the adidas Bronze Ball at the competition on home soil two years ago.
Keepers weigh in at the sharp end
The Russia-Tahiti showdown produced a further first for Portugal 2015, in the shape of two goals scored by goalkeepers, one from each team. First to find the back of the net was Andrey Bukhlitskiy, a feat matched shortly afterwards by the Tahitian Jonathan Torohia.
24 – The number of matches in the group phase of Portugal 2015, none of which ended level and required extra time. This has not happened since the first phase of the 2005 edition, the inaugural Beach Soccer World Cup, which featured 12 participating nations instead of the current 16.
“We were in the toughest group at this World Cup, up against three of the world’s best teams. We improved as the tournament went on but it wasn’t enough.” Abdiel Villa, Mexico wide player.
“We wanted to reach the last four, at least, and fortunately we’ve won two of our first three games.” Iran wide player Mohammad Ahmadzadeh.
“Of course we’re disappointed to lose after 14 consecutive wins, but that’s football. Anything can happen.” Russia coach Mikhail Likhachev.
“It feels incredible to have beaten Russia, particularly because we had lost all three of the games we played against them.” Tainui Lehartel, Tahiti defender.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, because Spain are a great team and [their goalkeeper] Dona was inspired. Now, what could be better than taking on the reigning two-time world champions Russia?” Bruno Xavier, Brazil wide player.
“I never imagined a game between two of the best teams in the world would only finish 2-1. Of course we’re sad to have been knocked out, but we gave it everything we had.” Spain pivot Raul Merida.
Thursday, 16 July (times are local)